Sweet Sixteen

What terrors are unleashed when a girl turns…Sweet Sixteen?

More like Sweet Twenty-Seven. Horror starlets are  like Mexican prizefighters…it’s hard to get an accurate birth-date.

There’s a new girl arrival in some hole-in-the-wall hick town. She meets a couple of guys in a sh*t-kicker bar with fluorescent Bud signs and leaves with one of ’em. The guy says, “I’m Johnny. And this is my truck” as if the vehicle was going to engage them in conversation. Talk about effortless charm. Eat your heart out Cary Grant.

They go to the town’s equivalent of make-out point and she gets spooked before either of them can get their pants off at this, the site of an ancient Indian burial ground. They puff a little weed and think about what they’ll tell the folks about how they spent the evening (the girl suggests they were at “the library” but this burg don’t have one. Which explains a lot). After they part ways, Johnny is stabbed to death repeatedly in the chest by an unseen assailant, and absolutely nobody misses him (oh wait, that’s an editorial comment).

The town sheriff, Burke, is summoned. He’s played by South Carolina genre legend Bo Hopkins (The Wild Bunch/American Graffiti) He pokes around, and gets some assistance from his dilettante teen daughter about the finer points of police work (she’s eminently qualified being into mystery novels all. Slasher fans will know her as Dana Kimmell who plays Chris Higgins in Friday the 13th Part III, who splits open Jason’s head with in axe).

Some of the bigoted townies (including Don Stroud, Search and Destroy/House by the Lake) pin the blame on a couple of er, “red”-herring Native Americans.

Tepid stuff.

Sweet Sixteen is a pretty procedural snore-fest and not the under-seen gem the reviewer had hoped. And playing “hey, isn’t that_________?” wears thin pretty quick.

**1/2 (out of 5)

Hell Night

The “spend a night in a creepy house at your own peril” conceit is so done to death, the DNA’s been degraded. And Hell Night won’t provide any exculpatory evidence.

Tom DeSimone’s 1981 feature is very close to Night of the Demons in structure. There, it was dumb students and Hull House, here it’s dumb students at Garth Manor. In terms of execution though, the effects and the fun is lacking in the latter.

And it’s not like Night of the Demons is a classic, or the only film Hell Night superficially resembles. Hell Night is a bit like House on Haunted Hill too, the classic flick where eccentric millionaire Vincent Price invites folks to spend the night in a creepy house. And when you’re talking young attractive people in an isolated setting, well…there are hundreds of horrors about that.

Frat/sorority initiates are goaded into spending a night at Garth Manor, where the family patriarch strangled the missus, and killed his three deformed kids before killing himself. But legend has it, one of his kids survived.

Da-da-dum.

A mob of students herds the initiates onto the property by tiki-torch light and locks the gates behind them. One of the students is Marti, played by Linda Blair, who it should be said seems completely bored by the proceedings. And she’s not the only one. This is a dull affair, with lots of long hallways with lights shone down them.

Straddling Gothic horror and stalk-and-slash college caper, Hell Night does neither genre any favors. But if we had to choose…the former provides the best elements, as there are some nice candle-lit visuals.

For some reason, Hell Night is out on Blu-ray. And yet, it’s not even among the Top 3 films with “hell” in the title, Hellraiser being the best (of course).

So is viewing the film a hellish experience? We wouldn’t go that far…

**1/4 (out of 5)

[Check out our Hell Night discussion on the Really Awful Movies Podcast]